China to WTO: Scrap plastic imports banned by year-end (article)


How should we adapt to this?  Who’s going to take all our crap now?

For starters, “I compost” needs to be the new “I recycle”.

I’m predicting a heavy P.R. push for more incineration, too.

Better Big Bellies In Philly? Yes Please.

Over the last few months, I’ve developed a habit of taking pictures of Big Bellies in sorry shape.

Philly has quite the love/hate relationship with them, but the bottom line is that they do a better job of collecting waste than wire baskets ever could.

The Big Belly compactors absolutely cut down on trucks on the road, bags used, and labor time…that is, if the program is being managed correctly.

According to this  2013 Syracuse article featuring Alan Butkovitz, that’s exactly the problem, and he’s still complaining about it nearly three years later in this CBS article, too.

He has a point- if they’re not being consistently maintained according to plan, you’ll get overflowing units everywhere.  If they’re being pulled too soon, that’s not optimal either.

I tend to side with Carlton Williams at this point- maybe Butkovitz’s concerns were legit in 2013, but hopefully they’ve been corrected since then?  I guess that’s the question.

Williams says they’re still saving the city $650,000 a year, which does sound like a low figure.  That all depends on what the calculation is based on- I would imagine it includes reduced labor, fuel, materials and recyclable material value.

The wireless network issue mentioned in the article is a real disappointment- this would definitely lead to missed service resembling my pictures at the top.

At that point, however, you’d just have to guesstimate how often to make your runs and you’re potentially losing the benefits of the system.

The good news going forward is that Philadelphia is about add 275 brand new units with the foot pedal upgrade- this will definitely encourage more usage.

The old Philly units actually favor contaminating the recycling due to the receptacle being an open void- no compaction, no grimy handle to worry about.

I have quite a bit of experience with auditing collected materials from the newer units, and the compliance due to making both receptacles designed the same is near-perfect.

In today’s lousy recyclables market, the potential reduced contamination can only help the city generate quality material and hopefully increase rebates.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the recent CBS article is the free maintenance/free of charge upgrade in exchange for free reign of advertising on them.

I really like the city units that have the mural art designs on them- it’ll be interesting to watch what Big Belly ends up doing with the ad space…Coca Cola and some lame PA oil/gas propaganda?

I hope the ads won’t be on the front side, at least… the city needs that space to specify what goes in each.

Whether you like them or not, they are the best way to collect waste in a public setting.

I’m happy that the city is upgrading the units and you should be, too.

Waste of the Week #24: Grand Canyon Mule Feeding

The single stream cut-out is good, but then the other two are rectangles.

The compost category is interesting- only fruits and veggies… no hamburgers or ice cream.  What’s that all about?

Maybe they have a vermicomposting system on site and they’re keeping it simple for the worms?

Nope- the food scraps are fed to the mules that work in the Grand Canyon Lodges!  The sharp-looking Xanterra website has all the details.

Known as Operation Shrivelly Apples, the program keeps food scraps out of the landfill, feeds the mules that make the daily trip down to the bottom and back, and creates manure which is processed into compost.

Yep- pretty awesome.

I do wonder how much sifting they end up doing, because while I hung around there, I saw stuff getting thrown every which way.

In my experience though, this is kind of how it goes with public collection stations… it takes time for people to interpret the goals of the collection program, let alone know what goes where, and lastly, decide to comply with the request.

More people have heard about composting in the last few years as more cities begin organics collection programs, which is great, but hearing about it and doing it are two different things.

Don’t wait for your city to offer composting collection- start it up yourself.

Putting stuff in the blue bin can’t be where the overall effort stops anymore.

Onward we push…

Hierarchy to Reduce Waste & Grow Community

The following comes from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (, a national nonprofit organization working to strengthen local economies, and redirect waste into local recycling, composting, and reuse industries. It is reprinted here with permission.

ILSR comes through with yet another killer infographic demonstrating the clear need for source reduction and composting over trashing and burning.

New report from GAIA!

GAIA just dropped a killer new report on the perils of incineration.

We already know how bad incinerators (pyrolysis, gasification, waste-to-energy) are in terms of the pollutants they spew out, but this report appeals even to the conservative bean counters.

Yes, incinerators are the most expensive high-risk solution to dealing with waste.  Stop supporting them.

They compete with recycling and composting programs, both of which are more cost effective and practical solutions that even create more jobs than incineration.

Here’s the press release:

Berkeley, U.S. — A new risk analysis from GAIA finds that companies promoting “waste-to-energy” projects like gasification and pyrolysis have a 30-year track record of failures and unfulfilled promises. After decades of industry promising a solution that both manages waste and produces energy, the vast majority of proposed plants were never built or were shut down.

“The global spotlight on marine plastic pollution has led to increasing proposals for technological solutions. But it’s important that investors recognize these processes do not work as promised and  set us back in developing real solutions,” says report author Monica Wilson.

According to the report Gasification and Pyrolysis: A high risk, low yield investment, “the potential returns on waste gasification are smaller and more uncertain, and the risks much higher, than proponents claim.” Billions of dollars of investments have been wasted on unsuccessful ventures in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, United States and Germany, to name a few. In 2016, the failed UK project by U.S.-based Air Products lost $1 billion alone.

Many gasification projects that started operations, have closed after failing to meet projected energy generation, revenue generation, and emission requirements. Despite decades of opportunity the industry has not resolved these problems. Other projects have failed in the proposal stage — after raising significant investments — due to community opposition and government scrutiny into false and exaggerated claims.

Gasification plants have sought public subsidies to  be profitable — particularly from  feed-in tariffs. However, these facilities would regularly burn fossil fuel-sourced material including plastic waste and coal, contradicting the purpose of “renewable energy.”

Over 100 major environmental organizations released a public letter in February stating that “We are deeply concerned by the promotion of feed-in-tariffs and other renewable energy subsidies for gasification, incineration, and the use of plastics as fuel.”

The report concludes that municipal zero waste programs relying on source separation, recycling,composting, and redesign of no-value products have demonstrated economic and technical success.

Check out the full report by clicking here.

Have an Idea for a Compost System?

compost contest

Have you ever wanted to design your own composter?

The Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council is seeking designs for neighborhood-scale, in-vessel composting systems that can be used by schools and community organizations.

Successful designs will be:

• Fully-enclosed and rodent-proof
• Able to function year-round outdoors in Philadelphia’s climate
• One to three cubic yards in capacity
• Easily constructed and maintained

The winner receives a $500 prize and recognition for their design by the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability and the Philadelphia Food Policy Advisory Council!

Compost is the nutrient-rich, earthy-smelling material created by the managed decomposition of organic matter. Community composting transforms organic matter into valuable soil amendments, keeps organic waste in a local closed-loop system, and engages communities through participation and education.

Submit designs by March 15, 2017.   Finalists’ designs will be selected by March 29.  If you are a finalist, we will provide funding for you to build your design.

Finished compost systems will need to be transported to a testing site in Philadelphia by April 26.  Finalist compost systems will then be tested over the summer, and a winner will be announced in Fall 2017.

Visit for more information, including a full list of specs and requirements.

Does Adding Worms to Your Compost Bin Make a Difference?

A few months ago, I placed a few red wiggler worms in my outdoor trash can compost bin to see what they would do.

It ends up they multiplied and they’re eating through my food scraps nicely!

Composting worms make a great addition to compost bins smaller than 1 cubic yard.  Technically, they work with any size system, but the worms will make more of a noticeable difference with smaller systems since they take longer to process organic material.

Two issues with small-scale compost bins include that they don’t get as hot, and the contents don’t break down as fast- adding worms will greatly help with both.

I Still Get Strange Looks When I Do This…

backpackFor some reason, I still get vibed out when I bring my own bag to the grocery store… how is this still a foreign concept?

Then again, old habits die hard and forming new habits is a pain in the ass, too- I get that (I’ve been trying to quit biting my fingernails for over a decade and still haven’t kicked it).

Anyway, up above is a picture of my backpack.  I’ve had it forever, and it has served me well in more situations than I can count.

The little bag at the bottom of the picture is the Chico Bag.

Between these two items, there’s no reason why I should I ever have to use a bag, paper or plastic- again.

Of course there’s times where you might forget- The Chico Bag has a little clip on it so you can attach it to something, if you remember to do that.

Plastic bags are the worst and paper bags aren’t all that much better.  I’ve talked about this in the past plenty of times and I’ll continue to mention it until not only do we have a bag tax but everyone is subconsciously doing it.

[Bringing your own bags isn’t a groundbreaking message, either…trust me, I’m aware.  However, it’s important to speak up…I guess.]

Admittedly, I’m still the guy that gets annoyed when someone asks me if I’d like a bag for that single item I purchased that fits in my fist… “it’s for convenience” was always the original response.  Over the last year or so, responses have increasingly changed to “you’d be surprised how many people ask for a bag”.

Either there’s more jerks like me, or more people are declining the bag.  Either way, just decline the bag.  Millions of these things are wasted per day, and their life is about 5 minutes.

Plastic bags (and film plastics in general) are considered a contaminant by the recycling industry.  As for paper bags, I can either pray to the recycling gods it will get recycled (best option assuming it does get recycled), or I can confidently compost it at home, but at least you can see it through without relying on anyone else.

Get in the habit of carrying a backpack to the grocery store, or a duffle bag, or a bunch of Chico Bags, or a well-made reusable bag, or really anything.  Use the bottom of your shirt.  Tuck your pant leg into your sock.  Fill up your shoes with quinoa and granola and walk home barefoot.

This is merely step 1 in cutting your plastic footprint.  Check out Beth Terry’s Plastic Free to take it to the next level… this book rules.  She’s very aware how tricky it is to cut your plastic intake, and even acknowledges how frustrating it can be to avoid purchasing plastic.  At one point it even led her to drink a lot- sadly I know exactly what this feels like.

Just try it.  If you’re frustrated with how to make a positive impact, or just want to “get involved” a bit more, or you’re up for an extremely simple challenge with a simple benefit for the entire glob of star stuff we live on- bag your own groceries in your own bag (and don’t give me that “you’re putting someone out of a job” crap either- think a little harder about that one).